taken from my personal blog, May 2011
Shelly Shapiro, the editor at DelRey in charge of Star Wars books, did a Facebook chat today which you can read here: Star Wars Books Facebook Chat with Shelly Shapiro. (racist comments in response to my question redacted.)
I went out on a limb and decided to ask her about diversity in Star WarsExpanded Universe (EU). I guess bringing up lack of diversity in EU made people uncomfortable because this guy named “Darth Severity” got all up in my grill ranting about how Star Wars isn’t the place for your minority agenda, Marissa blah blah high horse. (I wish I had saved the quotes, they have since been deleted.)
It surprises me how when this topic comes up in fandom a certain subset of fans react by trying to suppress conversation, as if bringing Star Wars up to Star Trek levels of diversity is a bad thing. How dare I take the piss out of Star Wars. Star Wars fans never do that!
So I said:
I’m a long time reader of Star Wars books (own over 200+) but I am also greatly disappointed by the lack of diversity in the Star Wars EU. I was particularly disappointed that the “Rip Tide” cover established Jaden Korr as just another young white human male hero(like the primary protagonist in every other era of Star Wars publishing.)
I would like to see more characters of color and women (including women of color) in Star Wars stories. Will DelRey make a commitment to pursue diversity in future publications?
Diversity: I feel we’ve had quite a bit of diversity, especially when you take into consideration the growing number of prominent characters that aren’t human. Saba Sebatyne, for example: An awesome female Jedi who is barely even humanoid. (I like her a lot!)
I feel so represented.
Really, how hard could it have been to say something like: “We are committed to pursuing diversity in our stories and have several projects lined up with human characters of color, and some cool alien characters, too! We understand that a lot of our fans are diverse and that many of you are women, too, and we want to make sure that Star Wars remains a property for everyone.” How frakking hard?
It really would have been simpler than saying, “Star Warsis soooo diverse it even has a lizard!” Whaddaya mean Star Wars isn’t diverse? Sure, all of the important human Jedi in post-“Return of the Jedi” books have been white, and the ones that are female have been handled rather poorly, but we have lots and lots of imaginary aliens. (The representation of aliens in Star Wars has vastly improved from the Mos Eisley cantina. The representation of women and minorities in Star Wars has remained stagnant.)
(I really don’t understand how Dark Horse Comics can create great, popular PoC characters like Quinlan Vos and super-diverse comics like Legacy, but the books by DelRey can barely cough up anything. I haven’t bought any DelRey Star Warsstuff in like three years, but since then I’ve purchased like 20 comic trades from Dark Horse.)
Given I wasn’t even referring to alien diversity I was kind of disturbed by this answer because alien diversity =/= human racial diversity. Racial minorities are not aliens. When the Star Trek franchise talks about diversity they don’t have to say, “We’re so proud to be diverse because we have Klingons.” (It always rankled me that the one non-white author who wrote for Star Wars was assigned what I believe is the only book to feature an alien as the main character.)
When I griped to Coop (an online forum mod from a site I used to hang out with in 2000, who now mods Literature at TheForce.net) he shared that when he asked Star Wars author Troy Denning why nearly all of the human characters in his books were white, the response was along the lines of “how dare you? We don’t say they’re white in the dramatis personae!”
If DelRey can create, develop, and popularize non-human characters like Saba I don’t understand why DelRey can’t popularize more human characters of color, too. (Unless they don’t care to, or don’t think to do so.)
Star Wars, I am disappoint.